Kia has come a long way since it’s establishment and subsequently, the launch of the first few passenger sedans in the late 70s. In 2003, Kia launched its popular Cerato, and was subsequently followed up by a facelifted Cerato Forte in 2008.
Today, the automotive world sees yet another launch from the South Korean manufacturer – the all new Kia K3 Forte, a replacement of the Cerato Forte.
I was invited to the preview and immersion program of the new K3 a couple of weeks ago, and had a chance to test out the new 1.6 litre, 128 horsepower K3 Forte.
Inspired by european designs and curves, the new K3 features a more stylish and aerodynamic body frame, as compared to it’s predecessor’s muscular and boxy front. This time round, Kia focused on agility and dynamics, a step forward from just plain boldness and aggression.
I must also add on that this car has an array of features that is not available on any other similar level car in the market. Features that are expected to attract new generation drivers include Bi-Xenon headlamps fitted with daytime running lights for improved visibility, as well as a newly designed 5-spoke sports rims.
The new design of the K3 also sees the implementation of Kia’s “Tiger Grill”, with the bonnet leaning forward for better visibility from the driver’s perspective. Complemented with the “eyebrow” daytime running lights as described by the peeps at Kia, it adds on a touch of aggressiveness that is much lacking in the K3 as compared to the old Forte.
For those who are picky about leg space and dimensions, you’d be pleased to know that at 4,560 mm, the K3 is 30 mm longer than it’s predecessor, and 15 mm lower compared to the 1,460 mm height of the Forte. It sits into the ground, giving a more sporty feel and look for it’s class.
Exterior gadgets and features are not as much as what the interior would please you with, but it comes standard with keyless entry (at just a touch of a button to unlock or lock the car), and automatic power folding mirrors that would retract or extend whenever you blip the control button.
Technology has caught up so much with us that nowadays, when I step into a car, the first thing I look out for is not how it would possibly drive, but the gadgets and features that come along with it. I’m particularly picky about having an enhanced user-friendly console, which will mean at least a 5″ LCD informative screen that informs me what is going on with my car, and also control features such as paddle shifters or steptronic gears that allow you to have a bit of fun on the road.
The K3 does not disappoint much, having most of these that I’d look out for. Right smack in the centre is a vast improvement of what the Forte used to house – drivers can now enjoy a 4.2″ TFT LCD touch screen which will allow you to toggle between your radio channels or music tracks. Pity it doesn’t come with navigation, but it does double up as a reverse camera screen for those who need a tad more assistance in parking the car.
Despite not having paddle shifters behind the wheel, Kia makes up for it with what I call an over-loaded multi-function steering wheel, with enough buttons such that it looks like an airplane cockpit. Common features such as cruise control. radio volume control and even Bluetooth controls are all cluttered into the three-spoked wheel.
A first in it’s class, the new K3 now offers ventilated seats for both the driver and the front passenger. This is perhaps useful for colder days when you feel like warming up your rear, or perhaps when you get drenched and do not want to go home with wet bottoms, and vice versa.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with a sunroof option.
Engine and Drive
Built on an almost similar chassis as the popular Hyundai Elantra, the K3 features a new overhauled engine pushing out 128 horses at 157 Nm of torque. The increase in horsepower is an added advantage for those choosing between the K3 and the Elantra, for which the latter only gives out just slightly above 100. The 1,591 cc engine also propels you from 0 to 100 in 11.6 seconds, the result of a much improved drivetrain – which is said to be one of the best in its class at current moment.
If there’s one thing I would like to commend the K3 on, it is the responsiveness of the engine. For those who are used to toying with the semi-automatic levers, you’d be pleased to know that the responsiveness of the K3’s +/- is almost instantaneous, rather than the common gear lag that you experience in most 1.6 litre cars such as the Elantra. The engine switches and the tachometer jumps in almost a split second with a blip of your gear stick (provided you upshift at the right speed and RPM, that is).
The pedal feel for the K3 is also another factor that attracted me. Unlike extremely sensitive pedals found on cars such as the Toyota Altis and some Nissan sedans, the K3’s pedals feel more solid and tough, and in my opinion, is easier for me to control the amount of power I want the car to push out.
We had the chance to test out the various moods of the car, namely Sports, Comfort and Normal. This was, surprisingly, done by the slalom test, which is “an excellent test of a car’s transient handling prowess, influenced by factors such as suspension tuning, physical dimensions and weight.” In layman’s terms, maneuvering around cones and testing the handling and suspension of the car. Pitted against a rival make, the K3 handles the best in Sports mode, where you get tighter wheel control and enhanced suspension to even out the body roll and bumps while cornering at high speeds.
At 1.3 tonnes, this front wheel drive machine feels a little underpowered despite all the thumbs up listed above. While you may not encounter or feel as such on normal cruising roads, you will find this problem evident when climbing up gradient slopes, or perhaps to a worse extent, Benjamin Sheares Bridge. The trick is perhaps to blip down the gear to a lower stage, but it is ultimately at the expense of burning more fuel.
Overall, this is an impressive effort by Kia in revamping the image and quality of its sedans. The stereotype of Korean cars having lousy quality has been lingering around for the longest time, and was battled when the new Hyundai Elantra and Hyundai Veloster was launched.
It can now be pushed a little more into history given the launch of the new K3. The European styling and design, loaded with heaps of technological features and gadgets, as well as the improved drive and engine tuning, all serves as good reasons for you to consider one if you’re a little sick of the traditional Japanese design and drive.
For those who wish for a sportier drive, look and do not have that much concerns over fuel consumption, I feel the Veloster would be a better choice (around the same price with a little more features and power). But for those who prefer a more peaceful and tranquil drive, it is quite evident that the K3 now is at the top of the competition ladder of it’s class.
The Kia K3 Forte was launched yesterday (27 July 2013) and is retailing at S$119,999 inclusive of COE and 5 years unlimited mileage warranty. Head down to KIA Singapore for a test drive now!
*All information is correct at time of publication.